While this year’s tree lighting events lacked the usual fanfare of years past, the holiday spirit is still alive and well in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. Both cities have lit their holiday trees and plan to keep them lit through the new year.
In Santa Clara, Mayor Lisa Gillmor was joined by Vice Mayor Karen Hardy and Councilmembers Raj Chahal, Teresa O’Neill and Kathy Watanabe for a socially distanced tree lighting. A virtual video of the tree lighting debuted online on Friday evening. It featured special guests Teddy, the bear that has resided at the top of the tree for the last 109 years, and Santa Claus.
This year’s tree lighting highlighted the work Santa Clarans have done during the COVID-19 pandemic including their dedication to the Help Your Neighbor program and local food distribution programs. Gillmor also gave special thanks to the workers on the front lines.
“This year, the honorary tree lighter is Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Clara Critical Care Team for their service to the Santa Clara community,” said Gillmor. “I encourage Santa Clarans of all ages to spread kindness and serve our neighbors as a way of following our tree lighters’ example of selfless and tireless service to the community.”
Santa Clara’s holiday tree will be lit nightly in Central Park until Jan. 10, 2021. You can watch the virtual tree lighting on the city’s website. Santa Clara will also release videos to celebrate other cultural celebrations this holiday season including Hannukah and Kwanzaa.
Sunnyvale’s tree lighting event was canceled this year because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County. When the county was in the Orange Tier, Sunnyvale Downtown Association Executive Director Mike Johnson had hoped to hold a simultaneous in-person and virtual tree lighting. Those plans were canceled as COVID cases in the county increased.
“Unfortunately, we must cancel the 2020 Holiday Tree Lighting out of an abundance of caution as our community battles the COVID-19 surge. We don’t want to put our community leaders or any of our residents in harm’s way. The tree on Historic Murphy Avenue will be shining bright and we encourage you to walk by when you visit downtown safely,” Johnson posted on the Sunnyvale Downtown Association’s social media pages on Dec. 3, just a day before Santa Clara County Public Health implemented a Stay-at-Home order for the County.
While the tree lighting in Downtown Sunnyvale did not take place, Downtown businesses are still open and local restaurants are open for carryout.